Land Use And Transportation Advocacy
SDBA historically has advocated for a transportation system that reinforces community cohesiveness. Southwest Detroit's geographic location on the west riverfront is responsible for its industrial character, with the waterway being the area's primary means of transportation. As the city grew, so did the means of transporting goods and people. In the early 60s, the organization's predecessor, the West Vernor Highway Businessmen's Association, was at Common Council advocating against a freeway connection across the neighborhood, connecting the newly constructed I-94 Ford Expressway, with the even newer I-75 Chrysler Expressway.
SDBA renewed its advocacy work in the 1980s with the expansion of the Ambassador Bridge Plaza, when the project's Environmental Impact Statement indicated that the neighborhood east of I-75 would disappear in five years, at its then rate of deterioration. The organization worked with the community to create the Mexicantown Community Development Corporation to reinforce its residential character, and worked with the State of Michigan Department of Transportation, to insure the development of the International Welcome Center at the U.S. Canadian border crossing. Removing truck traffic from the adjacent neighborhoods was critical to the project's funding.
Although the business-based organization takes a comprehensive approach to community development, its primary focus is the revitalization of the West Vernor Business District. The work is modeled on the MainStreet approach to commercial management. It addresses the need for a strong, business-driven organization, marketing and promotion, district design, and a clear understanding of the district's micro economy. As a working-class neighborhood, characteristics like "clean and safe," and "urban planning" have been added to the model. How freight moves, whether by rail, or truck, or ship, and how it intersects with residential quality of life, determines the viability of the community.
SDBA's policy that a clean environment is critical to economic success, is also a major basis for land use and transportation advocacy. Clean air and clean land are a bottom line for investment. No one will buy a house to put themselves or their family's health in jeopardy. No one will invest in a business where the property values are impacted by pollution or contamination. The Gateway Project, the Detroit River International Crossing, and the Detroit Intermodal Freight Terminal, represent over $3.1 billion in transportation infrastructure investment in the SW neighborhoods. Although the benefits accrue to an international area, the host community will bear the increased noise, vibration, air quality changes and congestion of the expansion. Those impacts justify mitigation, and community benefits planning and implementation. Along with a statewide and international stakeholder group, SDBA will join with others to provide the leadership to move the Community Benefits Agreement forward.